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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Feb 25 2019 1:00pm
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Eldrazi Taxes has recently become my favorite vintage deck. It has favorable matchups against a lot of the field, thanks to its variety of hate cards in both the sideboard and maindeck. And as one of the Tier 2 decks, it's also off people's radars when building their own sideboards, meaning they rarely have much to bring in that's relevant against you. (On very few occasions, you'll get hit with an Infernal Reckoning. That's about the worst of it.) 

You can see decklists everywhere for Vintage Eldrazi Taxes—but I haven't seen many thorough discussions of how to actually pilot it.

Here's the "canonical" version I used as a starting point, and here's what I ended up with after some testing and tinkering:

Basic Gameplan:

Stifle the opponent with various hate cards while beating down with accelerated large creatures. 

Differences in my version:

       

    Vryn Wingmare

    Swords to Plowshares

    Spirit of the Labyrinth

  • -2 Containment Priest: The interaction with Eldrazi Displacer is nice, but it's too slow to matter in many matchups. You also don't usually want multiples. This is better as hate against things like reanimation, Oath, Tinker, Show and Tell, and even Flash on occasion. Its function as a surprise blocker is relevant surprisingly often. Nobody expects Ambush Viper in vintage! (Not when your deck doesn't have Snapcaster Mage or Notion Thief, anyway.)
  • -1 Lavinia: She's the main reason blue was added to the deck, and yet I think she's overrated. She's surprisingly hard to cast, and is only at her best against blue decks, which are less than half the field. These are often the first cards to come out in Game 2.
  • Null Rod becomes Stony Silence: It's slightly harder to cast, but it's also slightly less vulnerable, and it also doesn't get hosed by our own Energy Fluxes—and against multiple decks, we board in both at once.
  • De-humanizing: This started as a way to save $50 on a Cavern of Souls playset, but I ended up preferring this manabase. It makes casting your blue non-creature spells easier, especially those all-important Energy Fluxes in the board. It also allows the slight upgrade from Glowrider to Vryn Wingmare—even in vintage, evasion can still matter.
  • -1 Kataki, War's Wage: It's weaker than Energy Flux and much more vulnerable. It's ostensibly good against Shops, but it just gets killed by Walking Ballista. Its lower CMC doesn't even matter as much as normal, due to how much acceleration this deck has. You have 3 mana on Turn 1 about as often as you have 2 mana.
  • -1 Karakas: Having two in the deck is generally safe, as the odds of drawing both at once is low—but the odds of its ability mattering is even lower. I do sometimes want to bounce my own Thalia, and sometimes my opponent has a legendary creature I can hose, but both are just so rare. I've never missed the second copy.
  • +1 Wasteland: I have never regretted this. We are a mana denial deck, and this is a cheap Stone Rain that also lets you cast your own spells in a pinch. And don't discount how important it is against Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra's Workshop, or Library of Alexandria. Sometimes a turn one Wasteland is your only chance at winning. AND it makes colorless mana for our Eldrazi.
  • +2 Disenchant: It's good for the same reason as Wasteland, denying mana from almost every deck. It also gets to kill Hollow One, Time Vault, Survival of the Fittest, Animate Dead, and any of Shops' creatures.
  • +1 Phyrexian Revoker, +1 Pithing Needle: These are good against so many decks. Revoker stops mana rocks, Pithing stops Bazaar of Baghdad, and they both stop Time Vault, planeswalkers, Survival of the Fittest, most of Shops' list, Deathrite Shaman, and so on.
  • -1 Reality Smasher: I found it too slow and too unimpactful against many decks. I even moved another to the board.
  • -3 2-mana lands; +3 duals: Although Eldrazi Temple and Ancient Tomb are quite powerful, there comes a point of diminishing returns. We do need colored mana, after all.
  • +1 Ancestral Recall: It seemed crazy to have blue and not this card. The only real arguments against it are that it makes your opponents Mental Missteps and Pyroblasts more relevant, and it's hosed by an X=1 Chalice of the Void (including our own), but I can live with those. I've resolved it way more often than not, and its power level speaks for itself.
  • Maindeck Swords to Plowshares: I found myself boarding these in almost every single matchup, until I just put them in the starting 60. It's even good against Paradoxical Outcome decks, thanks to their Monastery Mentor. Even Storm sometimes Tinkers for a Blightsteel Colossus!
  • +3 Spirit of the Labyrinth: A couple of decks shrug this off, like Shops and Survival, but it's downright debilitating against most of the field. Any deck with blue cantrips or Bazaar of Baghdad will cry—and that describes a lot of decks. I've had multiple opponents concede after I cast this turn one. (Whether that was the right play is debatable. Most decks can deal with it, thanks to Lightning Bolt, Chain of Vapor, or even Nature's Claim. But it still happens.)
  • +1 Rest in Peace, -1 Grafdigger's Cage: Rest in Peace is obviously stronger against graveyard decks, while Grafdigger's is more versatile against other decks. However, most strategies relevant to Grafdigger's are already hosed by our maindeck Containment Priests. Also keep in mind that Rest in Peace is good against more than just Dredge. Now that BUG decks are favoring Tarmogoyf to Managorger Hydra, it shuts down almost their whole plan. They have little offense, Deathrite Shaman is a vanilla 1/2, Snapcaster Mage is a vanilla 2/1, and their delve spells cost a full 8 mana.
  • Sideboard Chalice of the Void: This is probably controversial. I like Chalice against Paradoxical Outcome—and not much else. If we're hosing 0 drops, we already have Lavinia, and if we're hosing 1 drops, my version of the deck has more than the original version, so it's often counterproductive. Against decks like Shops and Dredge, it's nearly worthless. (At least in game one. You may want to board it in against Dredge to stop their sideboard cards, most of which are 1cmc.) 

Some considerations:

        Mental Misstep
  • Mental Misstep: I've seen some versions run it, but I don't like it for a few reasons. One, with all of our Thalia-types, we often can't cast it without skipping our whole turn. Two, most of what we counter with it already has maindeck hate. Ancestral Recall is stymied by Spirit of the Labyrinth, Sol Ring by Stony Silence, and so on. Admittedly, it is nice against the aforementioned Nature's Claim, Chain of Vapor, and (to a lesser extent) Infernal Reckoning. I may end up with 2 in the sideboard after more experimenting.
  • Maindeck Rest in Peace: It's great against Dredge, BUG, and Survival. It's decent against Paradoxical Outcome, Xerox, Storm, Rector, and Oath. It's bad against Shops, Landstill, Humans, Death's Shadow, the mirror, and colorless Eldrazi. Although the "bad" list looks the longest, most of those decks aren't played very often. Of the 6 most popular archetypes, Rest in Peace is relevant against 5, so putting one copy in the main is perhaps worth a thought.
  • Move Reality Smashers to board: Some versions of this deck have 0 Smashers anywhere. I don't like that approach, as they're good in some matchups (more on that later). They often do work in game 1, too—but they're some of the more frequent cards to get boarded out.
  • Time Walk: It's a famously high-ceiling/low-floor spell, and some decks can do more with it than others. It wouldn't be worthless in here, but often does less than something that directly impacts the board or opponent's hand.
  • More anti-Shops cards: As mentioned below, Shops is our hardest matchup, and one of the most frequent.
  • Ethersworn Canonist: In theory, it's nice against Paradoxical Outcome and Storm, but in reality, it didn't seem to do enough when I tested it. It's more of an annoyance to those players than a debilitation. Contrast it with the power of Rest in Peace against Dredge or Energy Flux against Shops—still not auto-wins, but way harder to overcome.
  • More card draw: I've already touted Ancestral Recall—could Chart a Course be next?? This deck does often go into late-game topdeck mode.

Specific matchups & sideboarding guide:

1. Paradoxical Outcome (7 cards in)

   

Use Thalia-types and Spirit of the Labyrinth to slow them down. Kill them before they can go off with Tendrils of Agony. Make sure you can also stop their Time Vault.

+1 Chalice of the Void, +2 Stony Silence, +1 Phyrexian Revoker, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Spirit of the Labyrinth, +1 Rest in Peace

-2 Reality Smasher, -3 Eldrazi Displacer, -2 Containment Priest

They don't have much to bring in against you.

Chalice of the Void for X=0; Revoker and Needle can name Time Vault before it hits the table.

2. Shops (8 cards in)

This is likely our hardest matchup, even after we bring in more than half of our sideboard. That's unfortunate, as it's perhaps the most commonly played deck right now.

    Steel Overseer

We can't race them. Although we can accelerate some 4/4s and 5/5s, they're still slower, smaller, and fewer than Shops' gigantic army. Your only way to victory is to out-hate them. Worse still, many of our maindeck hate cards aren't relevant here. Shops has almost no noncreatures for Thalia and Lavinia, they don't draw multiple cards for Spirit of the Labyrinth, and they are designed to function with Trinisphere in play, Most of your hate bears are turned into regular bears. Your odds are much better in game 2, but still not great.

+2 Energy Flux, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Reality Smasher, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Phyrexian Revoker, +2 Stony Silence

-1 Trinisphere, -1 Thorn of Amethyst, -2 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, -2 Spirit of the Labyrinth, -1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, -1 Vryn Wingmare

They can bring in Hangarback Walker—it combines fiendishly with Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer. Phyrexian Metamorph and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship can be good too.

The best advice I can give is to mulligan aggressively in Games 2 and 3. Unless the opponent has a bad hand, a Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker is not enough. You really want to drop an early Energy Flux or Stony Silence to have a chance. Not even then is victory guaranteed. This really is a hard matchup. Don't forget that, should the game go long enough, you can still use Eldrazi Displacer to remove the +1/+1 counters on their creatures and/or exile their tokens, even without Containment Priest at its side.

Unlike Paradoxical, I wouldn't drop Revoker or Needle blind, because Shops has so many powerful targets for both. Use them reactively, not proactively.

 

3. Xerox (6 cards in)

    Dack Fayden

Nearly all of our hate cards are relevant, but don't get cocky, because the raw power of this deck can still grind out wins from us. Especially since they have so many ways to remove our hate cards (most vintage decks don't).

+1 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Spirit of the Labyrinth, +1 Rest in Peace, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Phyrexian Revoker, +1 Chalice of the Void

-1 Stony Silence, -2 Disenchant, -1 Reality Smasher, -2 Containment Priest

Chalice on 1. Revoker/Needle targets (in order) are Dack Fayden, (Jace, the Mindsculptor), and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound.

You might be afraid to cast Spirit of the Labyrinth against a deck who can point Dack Fayden at us. Don't be. Our opponent wasting a card to make us draw 1 and discard 2 is totally fine. If we're storing excess lands and unwanted cards, it even helps us. And Spirit does after all prevent them from using Dack on themselves, which is huge.

 

4. Dredge (9 cards in)

    Bazaar of Baghdad

Many decks consider game 1 an auto-loss against Dredge and focus more on the sideboarded games. Eldrazi Taxes has much better odds than that, thanks to all of the pre-board hate:

Spirit of the Labyrinth and Wasteland hose Bazaar of Baghdad; Swords to Plowshares and Disenchant hit many of their creatures; Containment Priest stops all of their reanimation, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade is relevant against Cabal Therapy, Dread Return, and all 8 of their Counterspells; they literally can never pay the mana for our Thalia-types (in game 1); and when it comes to good-old-fashioned duking it out, our bodies are bigger than theirs.

I'll use the same disclaimer I did with Xerox: don't get cocky about the above, because their deck has a lot of raw power. It moves very fast and sometimes casts multiple Cabal Therapy before you play your first land. Your preboard hate doesn't matter if it's in your graveyard.

+2 Grafdigger's Cage; +3 Rest in Peace; +1 Chalice of the Void; +1 Swords to Plowshares; +1 Spirit of the Labyrinth; +1 Reality Smasher

-1 Stony Silence; -1 Phyrexian Revoker; -2 Vryn Wingmare; -2 Eldrazi Displacer; -1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade; -1 Thought-Knot Seer; -1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Many of the cards we're boarding out are on some level useful, but are lesser versions of cards we're replacing them with.

Dredge boards in mana sources, Nature's Claim, Chain of Vapor, and Unmask. All of these are relevant against us. Set Chalice to X=1.

 

5. BUG (8 cards in)

    Deathrite Shaman

This is a fun matchup because both decks have a lot of hate against each other. The main difference is that much of ours is already pre-boarded. We still have room for 8 upgrades though:

+1 Phyrexian Revoker, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Spirit of the Labyrinth, +3 Rest in Peace, +1 Chalice of the Void

-2 Reality Smasher, -1 Stony Silence, -2 Disenchant, -1 Eldrazi Displacer, -2 Vryn Wingmare

In the old days, when BUG ran Managorger Hydra, I would say to bring in only one Rest in Peace. Now that they use Tarmogoyf, all 3.

 

6. Survival (10 cards in)

This is a tough but fun matchup. You will think you have them completely locked down, only to realize they can attack you from many different angles. Worry about: Survival/madness creatures, Survival/Hollow One, Bazaar of Baghdad/Squee, Goblin Nabob drawing engine, free Vengevines, dropping 6 creatures on the board out of nowhere, and even grindy Deathrite Shaman matchups. Combined with their 8 counterspells, we have our work cut out for us.

    Vengevine

Our deck can stop any of these strategies—the trick is stopping them all.

+3 Rest in Peace, +1 Spirit of the Labyrinth, +1 Phyrexian Revoker, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +2 Grafdigger's Cage, +1 Reality Smasher, +1 Chalice of the Void

-1 Stony Silence, -1 Thorn of Amethyst, -1 Trinisphere, -2 Vryn Wingmare, -3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, -2 Thought-Knot Seer

MOST of our board comes in. Obviously we have anti-graveyard cards, and most of the others are self-explanatory. I do want to point out how important Reality Smasher is in this matchup. Most of Survival's game revolves on dropping Hollow Ones and Vengevines—they're free, they're powerful, they're resilient, and they often come in multiples, but they're also vanilla 4/4s and 4/3s. A 5/5 body on defense is sometimes all you need to stymie their whole deck. (Obviously one 5/5 will not hold back an army of six, but it works wonders against three or fewer, which is a common boardstate.)

Chalice X=1, Revokers preemptively against Survival of the Fittest (and occasionally Deathrite Shaman or Basking Rootwalla).

 

7. Mirror (4 cards in)

    Thought-Knot Seer

This is a tough one to approach, because so many of our cards are useless. We would board out a solid 13 cards if we had enough cards to replace them with. We don't, so we end up with a lot of chaff in our deck. Most of our creatures are little better than vanilla 2/2s and 3/1s—against a deck with four first strikers. There's also a delicate balance act of how to use your hate cards. Stony Silence hurts their mana rocks and nothing else; it also hurts our own mana rocks. Do we shut off their Wasteland with our Pithing Needle, thus shutting off our own Wasteland as well?

Fortunately, you don't have to make these tough decisions often, because few play this deck.

+1 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Reality Smasher, +1 Chalice of the Void, +1 Phyrexian Revoker

-1 Thorn of Amethyst, -1 Stony Silence, -2 Spirit of the Labyrinth

Chalice isn't exactly good here on any CMC, but when the alternative is leaving in Stony Silence, we might as well. Your opponent does after all have seven 0cmc mana rocks, and if yours come down first, a Chalice can help seal your lead (although it does shut down many future draws of your own).

It is nice to have Reality Smashers here, because some versions of this deck don't, and your 5/5s will be the biggest bodies in the game.

Be careful about casting Containment Priest if you don't have an Eldrazi Displacer already out—it might just enable an opposing Eldrazi Displacer first.

 

I hope this was helpful, and let me know if you have any tech for how to make this deck even better.